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1/19/2012
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TD Bank's Social Strategy: Start Small, Think Big

The bank's ambitious enterprise social networking plans started with a simple initiative that has already boosted productivity dramatically.

10 Smart Enterprise Uses For Twitter
10 Smart Enterprise Uses For Twitter
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TD Bank CIO Glenda Crisp said she started with a list of 20 enterprise social software candidates and quickly narrowed it to the four most likely suspects. IBM emerged as the only choice that met all the bank's business and technology requirements, she said. "There were no gaps, which was not true of some of the others," she said.

The bank is still only a few months into the deployment of the technology, which began with a pilot project in August, rolled out across Canadian locations in two waves last year, and is planned to be completed in the U.S. by the end of the month.

The major technical challenge has been identity management, which is critical to a system built around employee profiles. Crisp wanted to deliver a single sign-on across Connections, content management systems, and other corporate applications, but the bank had multiple sources of profile data "and that's been further complicated by our U.S. acquisitions," she said.

While Crisp's team worked on a more permanent solution to consolidate identity systems, they also put in place a temporary work-around to allow Connections to launch on schedule, she said. Meanwhile, the IT team has made great progress at unifying content management systems but is still working on providing unified search for corporate information, based on the Google Search Appliance. The goal is a common experience for searching for both content and employee profiles. SharePoint integration is on the to-do list, but is not yet complete. There are also plans for a WebSphere portal implementation that will include Connections components on each employee's personalized page.

Some of the features IBM is previewing in next release of Connections, such as the ability to embed apps in a social activity stream, will open up even more opportunities for integration with the social framework, Crisp said.

While Crisp addressed the technical challenges, Arnott had to maintain management's commitment to the project by addressing the risks of a move to social media communications head-on. "In my team, we have a saying: you need to believe in the value, not in the problem," she said.

When she scrutinized the objections she encountered and the risks that others identified, she was able to show that "many were existing risks, or just fear of the unknown," Arnott said. Once she eliminated those, the project team identified "a handful of real risks that we could focus on addressing," she said. "This is a transformational change that will rock the boat. You can expect resistance." On the other hand, many employees will want the social network and the sense of engagement in the business it can provide. They will help champion the initiative, with a little encouragement, she said.

In the end, Arnott said fears of what could go wrong with an enterprise social network are misplaced. "We trust employees to talk to thousands of customers, in person or over the phone, every day. With this, we're just letting them talk to each other."

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard.

The Enterprise Connect conference program covers the full range of platforms, services, and applications that comprise modern communications and collaboration systems. It happens March 25-29 in Orlando, Fla. Find out more.

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